The 2011 edition of the South Carolina State Fair is now underway. The fair opened in Columbia Wednesday with lower attendance than last year, as overcast skies may have kept the usual opening day crowd away. Officials say 2010 was one of their better attended fairs on record, mostly due to clear, warm weather. They are hoping for similar results this year.
The event will run through Sunday, October 23. Its gate hours are 10 am-10 pm every day except Saturdays (9-10 pm) and Sundays (12 pm-11 pm on Oct. 16, 9pm on Oct. 23). However, the rides usually open an hour after the gates on weekdays and stay open an hour past closing, as well.
The rides, exhibits, and food are all back, of course, but there are also some new features. One is 17 new security cameras that are spread throughout the grounds. Nancy Smith, the fair’s assistant manager, said the idea is to give fair officials quicker warning of any problems.
“It was done to help our patrons have a more enjoyable time at the fair,” Smith said, “It will allow us to get a broad overview of everything that’s going on in the grounds.” However, it’s not just crime they are looking for. Smith said the cameras will also be used for crowd control (such as determining if an entrance gate needs more staff) and to spot traffic jams in the parking lot.
Another feature is an AM radio station (1610 AM) that will broadcast information about the fair. Smith said it will warn visitors about any traffic problems near the fairgrounds, and alert them to alternate routes, if necessary.
But you can’t talk about a state fair without mentioning the food– which includes fried Snickers, fried dough, fried Oreos, and other things you wouldn’t even think could be fried, such as butter and Kool-Aid.
Yes, you read that correctly– fried Kool-Aid.
“It’s actually a Kool-Aid mixed with water into a funnel cake batter,” according to Ryan Collmer, a Florida native who runs the concession stand that sells the delicacy. “So instead of the funnel cake being a yellowy or creamy color, it’s red and looks like cherry flavoring. When you bite into it, it tastes like Kool-Aid.”
“We’re telling everybody it’s more like a hushpuppy,” he adds.
Also on display amidst the agricultural displays this year is a life-sized fiberglass cow that children can “milk.” Nicknamed “Cowlina,” it uses a self-contained pump to give the experience a more “authentic” feel. It can be found in the Cantey Building.
Fair officials also expanded the kiddie area in 2011 to give children more rides.
For more information: